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SOWEDA Promotes Cocoa Production in the SWR: Producers Trained on the Rational Use of Agricultural Pesticides
With its fertile volcanic soil, the South West Region presents one of the best settings for the cultivation of cocoa in Cameroon. It is in fact one of the reasons why for very long, the region occupied the number one spot on the list of cocoa producing regions in the country. This cash crop plays an important role in the economy of Cameroon as it is the second largest export product. In the heart of the cocoa season therefore, farmers in the South West Region have their full attention on their cocoa farms.
In the quest to increase productivity, one of the principal issues cocoa farmers struggle with is, plant diseases such as black pod, Dieback etc. and pests like capsids, stem borers and mealy bugs. The go to solution for this menace is the application of pesticides which protect crops from attack. However, the misuse of pesticides often occurs, leading to hazardous effects on the plants, farmers and the environment as well as excessive production cost and reduction of profit margins.
Pesticide abuse usually comes in the form of farmers exploiting poor spraying equipment, the utilization of the wrong pesticides on cocoa fields and failure to use the proper protective gears during the application process. The indiscriminate use of pesticides is another problem which can lead to pesticide resistance and increases the risk of residues being ingested by consumers. The result is that plants are poisoned and farmers’ health are endangered, stalling the advancement of the sector in the South West Region.
Cognizant of this serious problem, the South West Development Authority in a bid to assist farmers, has organized capacity building sessions to increase and improve farmers’ knowledge on the rational use of agricultural pesticides and the appropriate treatment calendars.
In a series of trainings in 2021 and most of 2022, cocoa farmers’ cooperatives in the Region have availed themselves of new skills to cope with these challenges.
During the 3 day trainings, cocoa producers were taught how to identify major pests and diseases and how to effectively select, formulate, handle and apply pesticides for specific problems. The trainees also learned how to make proper use of spray equipment, the different spraying techniques and equipment maintenance. Special attention was laid on helping farmers to understand the risks of misusing pesticides and ways they can avoid endangering their health, that of consumers and at the same time keep the environment safe.
Speaking at the end of the training in Kumba, Njimli Berline, a 31 year old cocoa producer in Kumba explained that the training was timely and very beneficial as it has provided her with knowledge on how to take better care of her cocoa farm.
“Thanks to this training, I now know that I have been misusing pesticides. With the knowledge I have gained from here, I will be changing my farming pattern and will reduce my use of chemicals” she added.
Much like Njimli Berline, 63year old Dieunie Goerge from kwa-kwa although being an experienced farmer, says the SOWEDA training has helped him to become a better cocoa farmer. “After so many years as a farmer, I still had not mastered the cocoa calendar and I still had difficulties choosing the right pesticides. Now I know better and I have even learnt how to use organic pesticides. I am certain this will help me get better yields and I wish to thank SOWEDA for this endeavor”.
The South West Development Authority has thanks to such trainings, reinforced and expanded the capacities of about 200 cocoa producers between the ages of 18 and 63 as to the best practices when it comes to pesticide use in their cocoa farms. The Establishment plans to carry out even more trainings targeting cocoa producers to provide them with the necessary technical assistance to make cocoa farming an even more attractive activity, offering more opportunities for poverty alleviation and sustainable development in the South West Region.
SOWEDA is also boosting activities in the sector by providing accessibility to cocoa production basins, making transportation of cocoa from the farms to nearby towns easier. The Establishment has over the years, opened up and rehabilitated hundreds of kilometres of roads in the region. Presently, SOWEDA is rounding off works on a 12km stretch of road linking Monde village to Tiko. This will enable cocoa producers in this locality to move their cocoa from their farms with ease.
All these activities fall under SOWEDA’s mission of improving on the livelihood of the rural populations of the South West Region, catering to the needs of farmers and communities, contributing to ensure food security and reducing poverty levels.